published: Friday, January 04, 2013
Roxanne Brown | Staff Writer
It's hard to imagine what things may have looked like 131 years ago, but sometimes pictures help fill in the gaps.
For the South Lake Historical Society, an old black and white picture of the Herring Hook's hunting lodge -- which became Clermont's first schoolhouse -- near Jack's Lake has proven invaluable as volunteers work toward constructing a replica of it for the Historic Village.
"We have a picture of what the Herring Hooks schoolhouse building looked like and we know that it was originally a hunting lodge built in 1881. Mrs. Hooks was the schoolteacher and it was needed since many of the approximate 20-30 students she taught were the Hook's own 11 kids," Volunteer and expert carpenter Larry Rescoe said, adding that originally, the schoolhouse was located close to where Hooks Street is located in town today near State Road 50 and U.S. Highway 27.
Rescoe, Jim Briggs and Gene Thomas has been working on the schoolhouse for two months, finding challenges along the way as far as replicating the building because codes of today were not an issue back in 1881.
That includes making sure the building meets the state's hurricane standards and having to use quarter logs instead of full logs for the design.
The replica will also have wood awnings that open up to allow air and light to flow into the classroom just like the original.
For the inside, Thomas has built wooden desks like those that may have existed in the 1800's.
Mannequins dressed in period clothing will be sitting at the desks as the students.
"It would have been nice to have had full logs but it doesn't meet today's standards," Rescoe said. "Still, it's looking good. People will be able to see how it looked from the outside and inside."
Rescoe said when finished, the schoolhouse will be "a beautiful addition" to the Historic Village.
"Imagine 20-30 kids all in one building like this that's only about 14 X 16 in size," Rescoe said. "The outside is all natural Cyprus we had milled for this building and the inside will be all pine. It'll be so neat because you'll be able to see it as people would have really seen it in the 1800's."
Rescoe said another neat thing is that since the wood being used is still "live" and being left "raw"' you will always be able to smell it when the building is opened up and people walk inside.
Rescoe said he expects the building to be completed in February or March.
Funds for the building were raised by the Historical Society through various event fundraisers.
According to Dodie King, the Historic Village's Manager, people who visit the village are already admiring the schoolhouse.
King also called it "solid."
"I didn't think they'd be able to do such wonderful work from just a picture, but it looks absolutely fantastic. Also, I don't think a tornado could blow it away, they've done so good," King said.
When one arrives at the village, started as a partnership between the city and the South Lake Historical Society in 2010, the schoolhouse is located next to the original Cooper Memorial Library building a museum filled with local history and pictures of old Clermont. The other buildings located at the Historic Village are the Townsend House, the original and actual home of Clermont's first black settlers built in 1885, the Kern House, the actual home of the city's first white settlers built in the mid1880's, the Train Depot, now a meeting room and concession stand, built on site in 1925, an actual World War II Quonset House that was refurbished and made into a WWII museum and an outhouse (replica) recently built by Jamal Reid as an Eagle Scout project.
The only thing left, Clermont Historian Dolores Walker said, is a chapel.
"After the school building is complete, our next project will be the building of a small chapel to complete our village. As of yet, we have not been able to find an old building to bring in for it," Walker said. "The chapel will be large enough to accommodate small weddings and will probably be built across the trail from the Depot in order to be near the rest rooms and the large meeting room in the Depot building which could be used for receptions, etc."
"The chapel will also be facing the lake for a beautiful view."
Walker said future funds raised will go toward the chapel.
"When we get the chapel built, our village will be finished. It's such a beautiful village though and there is so much history here. Who would've dreamed it would get this big and this fast," King said.
The Historic Village is open for special tours for schools, churches and other organizations by appointment.
Otherwise, the village is open for tours to the general public on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Historic Village is at 480 West Avenue in Clermont.
For more information, call 407-314-7382 or visit www.southlakehistoricalsociety.com.